INTERVIEW: Jim Smallman – August 2015

Credit: Rob Brazier Photography

by Craig Hermit.


Jim Smallman, how would you describe him? If you have purchased a Progress Wrestling DVD or seen the captions during the Progress Wrestling events on YouTube, it tends to describe him as, “excitable man child”. If you have witnessed him at shows, either on the microphone or standing at the side, you might be inclined to agree with that statement. A true fan of the action he is seeing in the ring before him, he subconsciously mirrors what every fan in attendance is doing and it’s truly a fantastic thing to see.

A true gentleman of the business and fascinating to interview, read on, about his show at the Fringe in August, his beloved Leicester and a lot, lot more.


Firstly I would like to say congratulations on the sell-out of “Chapter 21” within 18 minutes and the enormous success of last weekend’s show, ‘Beyond Thunderbastard’.

Thanks. It was a very stressful show – they always are for us – but a few days on from it I can now think about how cool it was. I’m always too busy on show days to enjoy them as much as I do when I watch them back!

The concept of Progress Wrestling began with yourself and your Manager at that time, Jon Briley, who is also one of three co-owners along with Glen Joseph – who would join a few months later – discussing how hard would it be to organise a wrestling show. At what point did you realise that it wasn’t a dream and the three of you could and would make it a success?

Jim Smallman At Chapter 19. Credit: Rob Brazier Photography

I genuinely think that we’ve only just started thinking that we might know what we’re doing. We were winging it from the start, and every time that tickets go on sale we presume that we won’t sell out, despite tickets going quicker and quicker each time. I think now we’re selling shows out in 18 minutes and expanding the number of London shows and also doing shows in Manchester that we possibly might know what we’re doing and it’s a success.  We can’t get complacent though, I think our pessimism makes us work harder to have a good product. So I think it was maybe early this year that we realised what we were doing was working and started to believe what the fans see for ourselves.

There was a lot of scepticism from fans and wrestlers alike who believed that a wrestling show could run in London never mind succeed like Progress has. When you first débuted in Islington, can you still remember that first show and any interesting stories you might like to share?

We really didn’t know what we were doing from the wrestling side of things. We totally understood putting on an event because Jon is some kind of promotion genius, so getting people in wasn’t the problem. Getting people to love the product and get our vision was the bit that took a bit more time, although when they chanted “This is PROGRESS” two minutes into the show it did feel very good indeed! There were a lot of things that we didn’t understand about wrestling in the beginning; Colt Cabana had to tell us that in is traditional for the heel to make his entrance first. Also, with two minutes before we started the show I realised that I had no idea how to climb into a ring. It’s a lot harder than you’d think! I thought I’d slide in like Edge, which is pretty impossible to do. So for the first few shows I awkwardly rolled into the ring and looked like an idiot. I’d actually learned how to get in the ring after the first few shows, but it was so funny that I kept doing it as a running gag.

The first Progress event was held at The Garage, London and it sold it out with 300 people. Fast-forward three years in, the shows are selling out 700+ consistently at the Electric Ballroom and the speed in which they sell out is getting faster, this time under 18 minutes. Can you explain the growth and the success of it?

The PROGRESS Staff At Chapter One. Credit: Rob Brazier Photography

There’s no magic formula to what we do, we’re just wrestling fans who want to put on great shows. We plan things a long way in advance and use the best talent in the UK and Europe and that means that the fans can really get behind the guys and care about what happens. We never thought we’d be doing so many shows in front of so many people, it’s crazy! Our fans are so loyal and it seems that every show we have few new fans who bring back even more new fans next time. They’re awesome.

The demand for Progress to expand or tour across the UK from the fans has been a topic that grows every time tickets released for a new show. In response you added a lot more dates to 2016 and later on this year you head to Manchester, are you excited with the prospect of heading there?

Very excited. For one thing, Manchester is a lot closer to my house in North Wales than London! The Ritz is a great venue and to have sold out our initial ticket allocation in just a few days is unbelievable. If we can achieve the same level of support in Manchester as we do in London then the future is very bright indeed. We’ll be going all out to make the Manchester shows as unmissable as the London ones, and we’re really excited to go to monthly London shows from March 2016. The demand is there, so it’s great to give the fans what they want.

One thing that draws people to Progress Wrestling isn’t just the action or the atmosphere but it’s the fans and how unbelievably friendly they are. Personally I’m one of the new fans, the last few shows I’ve been too and I’m not alone in saying this, it’s like welcomed into a family, your thoughts on this?

I think our fans are the best. It’s great that the sense of family we have within our atmosphere at shows is just so special, it’s one of the first things that people notice. I couldn’t be more proud of the fans, and as owners we all try to act in the same way and be an extension of that family spirit.

PROGRESS Champion, Will Ospreay. Credit: Rob Brazier Photography

Last weekend, Will Ospreay captured the Progress Championship after a year long struggle to get the Championship and three years with the company. The fans along with yourself and the roster exploded with emotion for it. The build-up, the storyline and the match itself was amazing. Your thoughts on how it developed and it’s success?

I think Will has one of the brightest futures in professional wrestling. Outside of the ring he’s a joy to be around, and inside it he’s one of the most exciting and talented young men in the entire business. At 22 years old he’s clearly got “it”, and the fans have been so invested in his quest for the title because he’s been so excellent and he’s been up against the most evil man in wrestling, the Antichrist himself, Jimmy Havoc.  It was the ultimate battle of good and evil and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a feud as good in indy wrestling anywhere, even if I am a bit biased with it being my company!

Progress has two different shows, the main shows are hosted at The Electric Ballroom, while the ENDVR shows are at The Garage showing off the best graduates from your training facility, the PROJO. Can you explain the unique differences between the two and the success ENDVR has had in it’s own right?

Its a sign of how great our fans are in that they choose to support ENDVR as much as they do our main Chapter shows. Whenever any of our graduates (Ali Armstrong, Pastor William Eaver, Chuck Mambo, Damon Moser, Kyle Ashmore, Sebastian and Tom Irvin) are on main shows they get the kind of support that a young youth team player does making his début for a home town team. The ENDVR shows started as “trainee” shows but they’re now so much more than that, and most of the matches wouldn’t be out of place on our main shows. I think the fans get a kick out of seeing the next stars come through the ENDVR shows and making their way to the top of the business.

Pollyanna & Jinny At Chapter 19. Credit: Rob Brazier Photography

At Super Strong Style 16, Progress fans witnessed one of the best wrestling matches this year between Jinny and Pollyanna. Will we be seeing more of an influx of Women’s wrestling appearing on the main shows?

Probably at some point. Pollyanna and Jinny had such a great feud at ENDVR that we had to give them a match at SSS16. There will be more women’s matches on main shows, but we don’t want to just put them on for the sake of it. There has to be meaning behind anything that we book.

You’re also a massive fan of podcasts. Is there specific ones you prefer, apart from Progress Wrestling – my favourite edition still being the aftermath of Super Style 16 featuring Eddie Dennis, Rampage Brown and Dave Mastiff. What are ones make you laugh or ones that you’d recommend?

I love Colt’s Art of Wrestling, especially any episodes featuring wrestlers from my youth. I also love Steve Austin’s podcast, but that is mainly because my name has been mentioned on it! All the MLW podcasts are great too.

You return to The Fringe with your stand-up comedy show “My Girls”, that will be running between 6th and 29th August at 5.55pm everyday. It’s about the relationship you have with your daughter and your wife, can you tell the fans more about the show?

Sure thing. The show is on at Just the Tonic at the Caves and is my first solo show since 2012. I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, and there is one wrestling story in there if you’re desperate for one! It’s lots of stories about my awesome wife and daughter, both of whom are infinitely funnier than me. It’s already been nominated for an award, if anyone wants any more information then check out

You have been touring as a stand-up comic for over ten years. Is there a favourite venue or event that has been your most memorable show?

I think my favourite venue is either the Boat Show in London or Komedia in Brighton. In terms of memorable shows, I think the time I did comedy at the Sonisphere Festival on my daughter’s seventh birthday takes some beating. 3000 metal fans sang her happy birthday, that was pretty sweet.

At Beyond Thunderbastard last weekend, fans at the interval saw your wife, Miss Shay Hendrix, shave her hair off in an amazing act for charity and the hair itself made into wigs for Little Princesses Trust UK. The incredible amount of £1062.93 was raised. When did that idea develop?

Well, the wife also raised £1900 for Macmillan online as well for doing it. My wife is an amazing person and wanted to do this after my Mum passed away from cancer. Macmillan were so helpful when my mum was ill, and then the wife found out about Little Princesses and decided to do something brilliant with her hair. She just had the idea one day and then realised that we could do it at a show and hopefully raise even more money. The generosity and the support of the fans was utterly brilliant and we were both very grateful.

You are a Leicester City fan and at times, references make their way into the Progress shows. How did that start and is Muzzy Izzett still your favourite player?

I was born in Leicester and my Dad is a massive fan. Went to my first game at 6 and then didn’t miss a game, home or away, between the age of 14 and 30. Muzzy Izzet remains my favourite player as he scored the best goal I’ve ever seen (Grimsby away, December 2002) and mainly because Esteban Cambiasso has decided to not stay any longer! I bring City up at shows because we have so many football fans there, plus Jon (Woking) and Glen (Newcastle) are big football fans as well.

You recently released your second eBook for sale on Kindle. What can fans of yourself expect from it?

The Football Neutral Season Two is more from my football blog. I watch a different team every week dependent on where I am in the country, and then write about my experiences. Plus I talk a lot about being a touring comedian and often also about wrestling. This one features trips to clubs as big as Borussia Dortmund and as small as Clapton. I had a great time writing it, and will start season 3 after I return from Edinburgh.

Fantasy booking, What would be your dream matches if you had your choice of any wrestlers, past, present or future?

Ooh, let me put together a whole card for you…

Mitsuhiru Misawa vs Mark Haskins

DEATH MATCH – Cactus Jack vs Jimmy Havoc

Bruiser Brody vs Rampage Brown

The Sumerian Death Squad vs El Generico and Kevin Steen

Jushin Liger vs El Ligero

Zack Gibson vs The Dynamite Kid vs Johnny Saint vs Morgan Webster
Kenta Kobashi vs Will Ospreay


And finally how can fans keep up to date with yourself and the events at Progress?

My website is and my twitter is @jimsmallman. You can find PROGRESS on the web at and on twitter at @thisis_progress.

**Our thanks to Jim Smallman for taking time out of his busy schedule to partake in the interview. Additional thanks to Craig Hermit for contributing it to the website